Archives- 1 on 1: Mizz Dee
The recording world has always blessed with an abundance of artistry and talent. Carrying the torch for the new generation is the unrivaled songstress Mizz Dee. Her tone is impeccable, her flow, unmatched. She has a wealth of talent and this delightful singer/songwriter/emcee goes hard on every stanza. We got a brief moment to sit down with the Swedish Siren as she chopped it up with G. Spot about her humble beginnings and her recipe for success despite an opposition.
AS: Hey Mizz Dee! In the October 2009 issue of Amped Sounds you gave us the opportunity to showcase your music, but we didn’t get to know you. Now’s our chance. Tell us about the lady behind the music and the moniker. First of all, what’s new in the seven months since the review? How’s the album coming along?
MD: Well, I’ve been performing a whole lot and I even started my own business. It’s not a big business. It’s small and it’s just me working as a singer/performer and putting shows together. So that’s what I´ve been up to lately and of course trying to work on my album. It’s taking some time with the album though because life got in the way a bit but I´m back on track.
AS: Tell me a little about yourself.
MD: I am half Swedish and American. Dad´s American and Mom´s Swedish and he used to be in the Army. So I am a true Army brat (he-he). Born in Germany (the old Army bases they use to have back in the 80´s.) So I lived here and there throughout my childhood back and forth from the USA and Germany. The times we lived in Germany we used to in the summer go to Sweden and visit my mom´s relatives and my mom had a family summer place out on one of Sweden´s finest islands, Öckerö. My mom’s family has always been in to music, all types of music, and my mom´s brother is a musician. When we (the mulatt American relatives) came to visit, they always wanted my family to sing gospel songs during family cookouts. But I used to be extremely shy so I never dared to sing. Plus my mother´s family is overwhelming, they always pick favorites in the family so I always felt like an outsider when I visited Sweden as a child, [I] never really liked the country back then. But when I was 12 years old we actually moved to Sweden for real. And I hated it! The culture was so different here especially once you live here. I had no real friends as a young teenager in the first few years of living in Sweden. But people thought I was cool coz I was American. I had to learn the langue on my own. In school I struggled to keep up and teachers were nice to me but they never encouraged nor believe in me enough and they didn’t help me learn the Swedish language, so I always had it tough in school. I was sort of the underdog in school. I had a lot of emotions running through me and I didn’t know how to get them out. Since I never really had any friends I used to sit in my room and listen to music. I loved collecting CD´s and back then they had singles of the popular songs that was out. I used to always listen to Whitney Huston all the time and try to imitate how she sang. I had many faces as a teen. Came across Destiny´s Child and was hooked on them. Never forget when I got TLC´s Fanmail album. I was so amazed by their style and I loved the No Scrubs song I memorized the Left Eye rap part. Then I used to go the CD store and look for old music from the 60´s and 70´s and I bought those CD´s and of course new ones to. I started learning rap songs like Tupac songs. The very first Tupac song I knew was “Do for Love”. I was about 13 teen when I noticed I loved to sing and be on stage. I went to a middle school that was known for putting on school shows called Kabarés. I got to sing “Wild Wild West” which was a huge deal coz I was in the seventh grade and seventh graders don’t get solos like that only 8th and 9th graders could get those solos. But thanks to my brother for hooking me up. He was in the 9th grade. After being on the stage I just loved it. I felt alive and I felt like people respected me more and I felt like I was good at something. So I did what I could to get that kind of attention. So I copied my brother, he was in a musical theater group in my home town. He got so much praise from people and he got so much attention from my family and relatives. I guess you can say I craved to be in the spotlight so I joined that musical theater group. Not knowing the only reason why they let me in was coz my brother was in it. I was in that group threw out my teens and I never had it easy. Basically I always had to prove myself to everyone. Back then I never really felt like I was ever good at anything except singing but people always compared me to my brother and always made me feel like I wasn’t good enough, even at singing. But I never gave up. When I was 19 I found a unique artist school called New DNA. It sounded cool and different. At that point in my life all my friends did the same thing, they all were the “artsy” types so they all joined the same musical theater schools and the like. But not me. I wanted something more and I never really followed the crowed anyways. I wanted something that would help me develop as a person and as an artist. And New DNA was that something new and different and what I was looking for. So I did an audition and got in. When I first walked in to their studio I was so amazed. It was then I knew what I wanted do with my life. Loved the wonderful positive vibes I got from that school. My family was very supportive. They were shocked when they heard me rap for the first time though and the first songs I brought home from the studio got my dad to cry a few times (tears of joy I hope he-he). They wondered, “Where this girl came from?” It was sort of unlike me to be raping and sing the way I started to do now. But they honestly enjoyed seeing me find myself.
AS: You came up in New DNA, which was a school that groomed new artists for the recording industry. How did attending this school influence and develop you as an artist?
MD: Attending this school was probably the best thing I ever did. I am truly grateful to have gone there. I am here today because of what New DNA did for me. Like I mentioned before I used to be very shy, timid and not so out going. But attending that school opened my eyes to rapping and being yourself and embracing your God given talent. What they did was take a real raw street talent and groomed it, trained it. All of us that have gone there have a unique sound and our own voices. Other schools try to change your uniqueness. Most artists in the industry sound alike. So what I´m saying is New DNA was the place to be.
AS: You had the opportunity to work with a variety of talented artists, one being producer/songwriter/singer Lisa Lee. Could you shed some light on how the two of you were introduced and your musical experience with her?
MD: Well she was my vocal teacher at New DNA and she was also my producer/songwriter. That’s how we meet. Never forget one of the first studio sessions I had with her she wanted me to sing “Almost Doesn’t Count” by Brandy. It was a remix, so I didn’t really know the lyrics. I did my best and in my head I really sucked. I thought my wales were bad and I was also nervous coz I honestly thought she would tell me I wasn´t cut out for the school. But to my surprise she told me I was great and was giving me positive feedback and gave me some tips. This was new to me; a teacher encouraging me and believing in me and she happened to be really cool. After I [left] New DNA I wanted to still do music with her because she´s so positive, fun and interesting to work with and I felt like I still had a lot to learn. I have never in my life meet anyone as talented as her before. In some way I believe God made it so we’d meet and make dope music together. She just gets you when you talk to her about what kind of song you want to do. My musical experience with her has been a lot of fun and a very good learning experience. I always learn something new from her. One can say I learned from the best! Another thing, she challenges you as an artist and I m blessed to have gotten the chance to work with her and gotten to know her.
AS: How did you end up being called Mizz Dee?
MD: Good question! I must say it´s Lisa Lee that gave me the name. I don’t remember how but I know every time I came in for studio she´d always say “what up Dee, how´s Miss Doreal doing?” And one day it just was Miss D…but I spelt it Mizz DEE to give it a cool look ha-ha.
AS: Most artists have a set ritual that they use to spark creativity. For me, it’s lighting a candle and putting on some Classical music to create that serene ambiance and fire up my brain cells. What’s your creative ritual?
MD: That’s another good question. Well for me it´s different every time. My new thing in getting my creative juices flowing is putting on my headphones and listen to music while I´m on the train. I travel a lot back and forth coz I live outside the big city. I love to watch people and study them while I listen to music and I´m in my own world. I love taking walks and freestyling while I´m walking. If I get an idea for a song I jot it down in my iPhone.
AS: What triggers the “OMG, I have to write this song” process and do you find it easier to write your lyrics with an established melody or do you just freestyle?
MD: It can happen any time [or] any place. I could be on the train, in the shower, in the middle of a conversation or an argument and I get this feeling that this could be a song. Most times I lie in bed just thinking about life and about eight out of ten times I come up with a topic or an idea for a song. Usually I don’t write it all down every time. I´m a true freestyler! But if I´m going through something then I write down what I´m feeling in lyric form. I do find it easier to write lyrics when there is already a beat made so I get to come up with a melody and lyrics. I try to use all my senses when it comes to writing a song. I also try using my surroundings in order to trigger that feeling of “I just have to write lyrics” like watching the moon shimmering over the lake or listening to the snow melt on one of the first spring days. It’s moments like that, that triggers the “OMG” moment. I often find myself freestyling away and out of the freestyle I try to write lyrics and songs.
AS: You’re a multi-faceted artist who tackles singing, writing and emceeing with ease. Which is the most satisfying?
MD: For me, singing is expressing a feeling if am happy or just having a moment. Writing is trying to tell a story that people haven’t heard. Writing something I´ve gone threw. Emceeing is a lot of fun has a lot of attitude and I must say I find both singing and emceeing satisfying. When I m angry or just got something on my mind I emcee out my feelings. I feel like singing and emceeing are both part of me.
AS: You mentioned Jesus, Alicia Keys, Lauren Hill, 2Pac, Aretha, Gladys Knight, Mary J. Blige and Kirk Franklin as some of your influences. In what ways have they influenced you?
MD: I am a Christian and was raised in a Christian home, so I been in church and read the bible and believe Jesus was and is the coolest man that ever walked the earth and we should all try to be more like Jesus. I could go on about these artists in what way they influence me but I can shorten it for ya. Lauren Hill, Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys are in my book of strong women and got a head on their shoulders. I listen to a lot of Alicia Keys because I love how she writes lyrics and arranges her songs. She is also a true artist not only going by her looks; she goes by her talent and I love that about her. Kirk Franklin is not afraid to make music that has a Christian message. And he makes really good music. These artists are the ones I think stand out for me but that’s just a few of the artists that influence me. Then there is one more female artist a singer that influences me and I don’t even think she knows it but Lisa Lee has a real big influence on me! One of the reasons why I rap is because she believed in me and thought I had skills. She does basically every element. Sings/produces/songwriter and I hope one day I can at least start to become a bit of a producer/songwriter.
AS: People may associate Mizz Dee with Hip-Hop, Neo-Soul or Acoustic Soul, however as a member of Glow Gospel Choir you’ve honed your Gospel skills. Will there be a Gospel album in the future?
MD: Your not the first to ask me that. I really do want to make a gospel album but that would have to be in the future. Maybe in the near future.
AS: In your vast catalog I noticed that you’ve even created a Christmas carol called “The Little Child”. Christmas Carols can be a bit cheesy, but you successfully avoided traveling down that road with such an authentic song. What’s your favorite carol and just for fun, which one is the cheesiest?
MD: Thank you very much! Again I have to thank Lisa Lee for collaborating with me on that song! My favorite Christmas carol? There is so many but I never really like the typical carols so I´ll name my personal favorites. Alexander O’Neal’s “Our First Christmas, Thank You for a Good Year” Patti Labelle’s Christmas album “Miss Patti’s Christmas”. But the best song on that album has to be “Nativity”. These two are my favorite too: Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” and The Temptations’ “Silent Night” (but it’s the version that’s hard to find.) The cheesiest carol? You shouldn’t have asked me that coz I seriously could go on about those. Alright I m a give it a go and let´s hope I don’t make people mad ha-ha. I really can´t stand the Elvis Presley´s “Blue Christmas”, Whams “Last Christmas” sorry to all the fans of those songs! I have a problem with those artists that just quickly put together a Christmas album with the same old songs. But this song is absolutely the number one cheesiest carol “The Christmas Shoes” by Newsong. If you haven’t heard it log on to YouTube and listen to it. Its sooo cheesy and a bit depressing and gets on my last nerve. =P
AS: What artists have you collaborated with and what is your dream collaboration?
MD: Let me think for a moment. I have worked with a producer/rapper named Skii (Glen Erikson) Bookworm, Hammish, Alpha, Hummin, Alex Darland and I’m in the process of working with a London producer named Pappie. My dream collaboration I´d have to narrow it down, Alicia Keys, Missy Elliot, Whitney Huston and if he was still alive Michael Jackson and I have to chose at least one male [Hip-Hop] artist so I would have to say Common.
AS: While preparing for this interview, I read in your blog that you were deeply affected by the movie ‘Dream Girls’ as well as by the election of President Barack Obama. Will you share with your fans how and why that particular film and the Obama victory touched you as a person and as an artist?
MD: Well like I mentioned before I used to be in amateur musical theater so of course I was excited to see Dream Girls. I am a huge fan of Old Skool music like The Supremes and so on. This film made an impact on me because of the wonderful performance that Jennifer Hudson gave in this movie. She really struggled to get that part and I bet there were many people that didn’t think she would get this part let alone win an Oscar. But let me get back to why this movie touched me. This movie showed how hard it truly was back in the day for artists and how harder it was if you were black and that’s something I will hopefully never go through. Even though this movie was fictional I still believe there is some truth to the story. I just loved how they showed the ups and downs the girl group had and it’s a very inspirational movie. And that’s just talking about the performances and storyline. The music in that movie is amazing and it really sounds like it´s from that era witch is sort of hard to capture nowadays. As a person watching this movie made me feel like I was connecting with my black roots. The same goes for me as an artist. And that easily brings us to why I was so deeply touched with the victory of President Obama. Like I mentioned earlier I am half black and half white and as everyone might know so is President Obama. I just think it´s really cool. My parents raised me to not only look at the outside like color, I just see people for who they are and if they happen to be white, black, yellow it´s just a plus. I´m not a very political person but when I tried to watch the news to see what was going on with the election I was just taken by the way Obama talked. He was positive and the words he used encouraged me to want a change and believe in hope again. Now I honestly don’t know how it´s been in America because I live in Sweden, but for me personally it was really nice for once to see a political figure really speak with emotions, passion and seem to mean every word he spoke. I did some research I found out that most times Obama wrote his own speeches. I’m just happy I was around during a historical moment. My parents grew up with inspirational public figures during their youth and to me it seemed like my generation hasn’t really had that but now we do. What more can I say I just think Obama is cool and I´d love to meet him. He seems like the kind of president that would actually want to hang out with you.
AS: You’ve been very active on the stage and have performed in an assortment of venues. What’s been your wildest gig?
MD: Oh my gosh! That boat cruise in January was stupid crazy… I can share for my fans and the readers just a lil bit of that story but if they want the full-length version they have to read my blog on my MySpace. The first boat cruise gig was in January and the past month and a half I have been performing on these types of boats. So I got many stories! But I´ll start off with the January cruise. I was going to entertain some big shots in the music industry and there wasn’t that many female singers on this gig just me and another girl. Our crew was the Soul Train crew that did soul music… The big shots on this boat were into country music but the funny thing is the audience and even all of these big shots loved the Soul Train crew. We brought some flavor to this boat ha-ha. Most of the people that went on these cruises are older men that want to get stupid face drunk and act like a total jackass. I´ve encountered so many drunken older men grabbing or trying to grab my ass and so many bad pick up lines. But I´m a smart girl. I always find what I call bodyguards to keep all the nasty of nasty drunk men off me. The two bodyguards I meet on this January cruise happened to be really cutie and in my age. I know they both had a thing for me! So that was the short version of that story but I did write a blog about it so just read my blog on MySpace. But the wildest gig happened just a few weekends ago. Again it happened to be on a boat cruise (maybe coz that’s where all the wild things happen) I was doing the disco show at the club they have for the passengers. You think that disco would work and get people on the dance floor. It was so wired because not very many people showed up at first. Took about an hour to get them on the dance floor, I mean we was dressed up in true 70´s outfits but people were so drunk it took a while before the noticed. Any ways we did a few songs and then had a break so me and my college friend Terry Spicer headed to the dance floor to mingle with the crowed and get them in a dancing mood. This girl we later dubbed “boobalicous” came out on the dance floor and started dancing. She was of course drunk and even had a drink in her hand. She wanted to dance with us and I was dancing and talking to Terry when he gave me a surprised look…he pointed at the girl and when I turned around to find out what he was laughing about. This girl’s boob was totally hanging out and I tried to tell her over the laud music that her breast was visual to everyone. She couldn’t hear me and then starts to dance again I try to get her to look down…she looks down but looks at the wrong boob (that one was also about be visual). It took about ten minuets until she realized that her other boob was out in the open. It was very funny though and everyone on this boat talked about her. She was actually our biggest fan that weekend. Got many more wild gig stories but I´ll save them for a rainy day. Hope you all enjoyed this story. =)
AS: Let’s talk about my new personal anthem, “Queen.” It’s a declaration of independence encouraging women to accept and respect ourselves just as we are in this moment. What inspired you to write and ultimately sing “Queen?”
MD: This song was written together with the wonderful Lisa Lee. I´ve always had bad encounters with women. We can be quite awful towards one another. You know the movie “Mean Girls” that’s actually happened to me both in Germany and here in Sweden. There are a lot of songs about how men should treat women but not enough songs on how women should treat each other. And with the help from Lisa we created a women’s anthem or at least it should be a women’s anthem. =D
AS: The video for “Dream Luv” looks like part of it was filmed in The Tube, which gives it a fresh, energetic vibe. Which city was it shot in and who directed it?
MD: Thanks! Yeah it was filmed in my home town Alingsås by the train station and it was directed by yours truly, my brother Fillip and a friend Magnus Carlson from MC productions.
AS: “Zombie” has a great message about phony friends and a beat that will trigger a stampede to the dance floor. Is “Zombie” going to be a full length cut on your album? The imagery in the lyrics suggests a “Thriller” type video… any of that in the works?
MD: Why thank you! Actually that song was just a interlude it was just something fun we cooked up in the studio and isn’t really a full length song but now that you mention it I should think about making that into a full length song. Hmm….that video idea ain’t such a bad idea, I have to be careful so I don’t come off as a lame copycat ha-ha.
AS: “I Just Don’t Love You” has an early Motown R & B vibe and a very personal feel to it. What is the backdrop to that song?
MD: That song is kinda funny because when I wrote it I didn’t go through any bad break ups. I´ve seen friends go threw those break ups. One can say I put myself in those people’s shoes. But that song to me isn’t just about bad break ups. It’s sort of a song about how to move on in life using a failed love relationship as a metaphor in moving forward in life. This song was also the very first song Lisa Lee and I did together. It was recorded during my time at the New DNA artist school.
AS: I recently read a mantra credited to Mary J. Blige that says: “You will never feel more alive than when you live the dream God created you for.” It made me think of you because you are very real, very grounded, and yet very animated and spiritual. All of those qualities are reflected in your artistry. Are you living that dream? What’s next for you?
MD: Yes I am living that dream. It feels like it´s just the beginning though. What´s next for me well right now I´m working as a performer/singer with Dreamworld Entertainment in doing concept shows from the 70´s called “Boogie Nights” www.dreamworldentertainment.se . We put on live shows for corporate events. I am also investing in putting together my own studio. I really want to start writing songs for other artists and see if I can start becoming a songwriter. I have loads of plans for the future. Finnish my album and try to collaborate with many more artists and producers; [the] sky is the limit. Oh yeah and I seriously want to do a gospel album.
AS: What effect has the Internet had on you as an independent artist?
MD: Well you can definitely get your music out there faster. With all the communities, the Facebooks, MySpaces and Twitters, everyone will know when and where you’re performing. But I find it a lil difficult to keep updating those pages and the layouts. I have to spend a lot of time in just posting new pics of me and there aint enough hours in the day to do all this internet stuff. I probably have to hire someone to do it for me he-he.
AS: What’s hot on your iPod right now?
MD: I don’t have an iPod I got an iPhone instead that’s how up to date I´m trying to be. But I got music on my IPhone! Right now I got M.J´s newest songs “Good Love” Alicia Keys latest, some Old Skool music like Chaka Khan. I`m really into Wale. Melanie Fiona is another artist that´s hot on my IPhone. I download songs from the Internet but I do still buy CDs when I can I buy them. Still find it special to have the whole album of an artist than only having it on your computer.
AS: How can artists looking to collaborate with you get in touch with you?
MD: I got a MySpace and a Mizz DEE Facebook page. And I´m even working on getting my own website, but like I said I think I have to hire someone to fix my web page. I do have an email that people can email me if they want to collaborate. firstname.lastname@example.org
AS: How can your fans preview or purchase your music?
MD: At the moment it aint out to purchase yet. But you can preview some of the tracks on www.myspace.com/dorealwilliams
AS: And finally, to wrap things up, what would you like to share with our readers and your fans that I have not asked you?
MD: I think we got everything! But I got loads of projects in the works. So all you fans just keep on the look out for Mizz DEE!
We wish you continued success. Looking forward to the album. Thanks Mizz Dee!